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  • Writer's pictureAshley Hudson LMFT

20 Parenting Tips on How to Improve Communication Skills for Teens

Updated: Jul 15, 2023

A dad is sitting with teenager discussing unhealthy teenage communication skills.

Takeaway: In this post, I explain what are healthy teenage communication skills and how parents can teach and model effective communication skills for their teens so they can have thriving lives in the future.

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One of the most important if not crucial skills to teach your teenagers is developing good, healthy, and positive communication skills. Having healthy communication skills is the backbone to successful relationships, careers, friendships, and emotional health. Some of the most aspiring, inspirational, and empowering leaders out there are people who have great and effective communication skills.

As a parent of a teenager, you might feel overwhelmed with helping your teen manage their schoolwork, taking them to extracurricular activities, and getting them ready for the adult world. It can feel intimidating and confusing with knowing which skill takes precedence over the other regarding getting your teenager prepared for adulthood.

Being a teen therapist who works with teenagers that struggle with anxiety, friendship conflict, sport anxiety, grief, and relationship skills, one of the biggest areas of focus with teenagers is having healthy communication skills. Learning to express your needs appropriately and effectively can help teenagers be assertive, demonstrate confidence, and get the support they are looking for. Effective communication skills for teenagers is a powerful and underestimated tool that can determine whether or not your teen will be successful in the future.

What are good communication skills versus not good teenage communication skills?

So you might be wondering what is the difference between good and effective communication skills versus not good and ineffective communication skills. Good communication skills does not necessarily mean that you will get a good reaction or a response from others. Being effective with your communication will give you the best possible chance to have a positive, successful, and wanted outcome in your interaction.

Some Examples of Healthy Communication Skills in Teens:

  • Teenagers matching their actions with their words.

  • Teenagers who’ve developed a strong emotional vocabulary.

  • Teenagers who can articulate their feelings, wants, and needs while regulating their reactions and responses.

  • Teenagers who feel confident in the way they communicate their message to others.

  • Teenagers who are able to actively listen, ask questions, and be engaged in a conversation.

  • Teenagers who are empathetic, open, and able to demonstrate respectful body language.

  • Teenagers who are able to stick up for themselves and say no when appropriate.

It’s important to note here that just because a teenager has one of these examples of healthy communication does not mean they demonstrate positive effective communication skills. The more they encompass these examples and are able to do these strategies consistently over time, the more likely they possess healthy communication skills as teens.

Some Examples of Poor and Ineffective Communication Skills in Teens:

  • Teenagers who are passive aggressive.

  • Teenagers who struggle with conflicts and misunderstandings with parents, teachers, and peers.

  • Teenagers who can’t pick up on social cues and demonstrate closed and unapproachable body language.

  • Teenagers whose words and actions do not match.

  • Teenagers who feel guilty and doubtful on how they talk and express themselves.

  • Teenagers who aren’t in tune nor connected with their emotions.

  • Teenagers who consistently demonstrate intense responses and reactions that lead to others moving away from them.

A caveat here is that we are human. Humans aren’t perfect with their communication skills and especially teenagers who are learning themselves on how to interact with people. Just because a teenager demonstrates one of these ineffective examples doesn’t necessarily mean they have ineffective communication skills. If your teenager is demonstrating most of these poor examples over time and they are consistently showing ineffective communication skills with their parents, friends, teachers, and other individuals in their lives then you can conclude your teen struggles with implementing healthy communication skills.

What are the benefits of developing healthy communication for teenagers?

A mom and daughter are hugging on the beach smiling because they are able to communicate effectively and connect.

There are an incredible amount of benefits when developing healthy communication skills especially for teenagers.

Teenagers who have the chance to develop healthy communication skills have:
  1. More meaningful friendships: When teenagers are able to communicate who they are and what they want in friendships, they can create more deeper and meaningful friendships. Teenagers thrive when they feel they are connected with a group and have a strong support system.

  2. Less conflict: Teenagers who can articulate clearly and concisely are going to have less chance of conflict happening. Developing healthy communication skills typically leads to a decrease in conflict due to less misunderstandings.

  3. Increase self esteem: When teenagers are able to identify their feelings, verbalize their wants and needs clearly and openly, teens begin to increase confidence in their own worth and abilities.

  4. Able to advocate for themselves: Teenagers who have high self esteem and are able to articulate their feelings effectively feel empowered to advocate for themselves and be assertive with wants and needs.

  5. Can read people’s body language: One of the advantages of having healthy communication skills is you are able to read people’s body language and cues therefore you can tailor your message to respond appropriately.

How can parents help teenager’s communicate?

Parents have an amazing opportunity to guide, shape, and shepherd their teenagers by modeling effective and healthy communication skills themselves. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no easy task as an adult to communicate effectively and in a healthy way towards your teen. Sometimes teens push their parent’s buttons, say hurtful things, instigate conflict, and trigger intense emotions in their parents.

Helping your teenager communicate effectively and in a healthy manner is a big task to take on. However, it is the most rewarding gift you can provide your teen.

One way to help your teenager communicate is by giving your teenager compassion, grace, and patience while they learn how to communicate through trial and error. Giving your teenager compassion while they learn what works and what doesn’t work when they are communicating to you and their friends really allows your teenager to feel safe and accepted in the learning phase of life.

Another way to help your teen communicate is to offer teachable moments to discuss the social consequences of their communication skills. This can look like inquiring about other people’s perspectives or exploring with your teen what would happen if they decided to yell or ghost their friend.

Lastly, showing and demonstrating loving communication through kind words can give your teenager a foundation of where to start.

Beginning with kindness even when you are hurt or needing to set boundaries with others can give your teenager a starting point.

20 Tips Parents Can Do To Help Improve Communication Skills for Teens

Teaching your teenagers effective communication skills can help your teen avoid misunderstandings, absorb the real meaning of what is being communicated to them, feel aligned with what they are saying, and greatly improve their relationships at home, school, and with peers.

Here are 20 strategies you can do to help improve teenage communication skills:

1. Listen, listen, and more listening

Too often I see parents really wanting their teenager to understand their point of view, instead of taking the time to be an engaged and active listener. Seek to understand your teenager’s emotions and what they are thinking. Offering the space to truly listen to your teenager can help your teenager feel heard and seen. This skill can translate into your teenager learning how to make others feel heard and seen as well.

2. Identify emotions and feelings

A really great skill to learn is for your teenager to identify their emotions and feelings. Most of the time your teenager will be talking about what bothers them and they aren’t using any feeling words. A great way to help is by pointing out the possible emotions they might be feeling. When your teenager sees that you are trying to understand their feelings and help them identify their pain points, your teen will instantly calm down and be able to regulate their emotions. These skills can translate into your teenager having more awareness of what emotions and feelings they are having and when they are affected by a situation thus decreasing anxiety and depression.

3. Use “I” statements

Using “I” statements when you talk to your teenager can give your teenager a framework of how to communicate their feelings and thoughts to someone else especially when they are resolving conflict or confronting someone.

4. Be cautious with asking why

Too often parents utilize “why” questions as a means of understanding their teenager’s behavior and response. Sometimes asking too many “why” questions can come off as attacking or criticizing. When a teenager or someone feels criticized they might shut down or fight back verbally. Another way to model seeking understanding is to say, “Help me understand XYZ.”

5. Don’t interrupt

Interrupting your teenager while they are attempting to talk out their thoughts can really make them feel shut down and dismissed. Teaching your teenager not to interrupt by giving your teenager space and time to get their opinions heard can model effective communication skills.

6. Acknowledge their perspective

One of the things to increase self-esteem for teenagers is to acknowledge their perspective. Their perspective is unique to them and their experience isn’t going to be exactly how you experience the situation. Acknowledging someone’s perspective is a great communication skill for your teenager to learn to increase connection with you and their peers.

7. Its okay if you don’t agree

Show your teenager that you can acknowledge their opinion, be curious, and continue in the conversation even if you DON’T agree with your teenager. A great communication skill to learn is how to gather people’s opinions, listen to them intently, and disagree with them without judgment.

8. Encourage your teen to journal

Journaling is an effective tool for processing your thoughts and feelings, reducing stress, increasing mindfulness, and gaining self awareness. One of the best things you can do is to take on journaling for yourself as a parent and be an example to your teenager. Journal in the family room while your teen sees you. If they are seeing you journal and recognizing the benefits of what journaling does for you, they will be more inclined to engage in journaling and increase their communication skills because of it.

9. Ask if they need a listening ear or advice

When your teenager comes to you and discusses their concerns or feelings, begin by asking if they need a listening ear or advice on the matter. This helps your teenager identify what they need out of the conversation. Teaching your teenager to inquire about how to support someone emotionally is a great way to model communication skills.

10. Validate their feelings

Validate your teenager’s feelings by telling them that their emotions are real and understandable. Don’t tell your teenager that their emotions are unreasonable or they should feel a certain way. You might not agree or you might have a different experience but that does not make your teenager’s feelings less real. Helping your teenager be able to validate other people’s feelings will definitely help their communication and relationship skills.

11. Show Trust

Show your teenager trust by giving them the benefit of the doubt and opportunities to make their own decisions. By demonstrating trust in your teenager, you can help them develop a sense of responsibility, independence, and confidence. Trust opens the door for your teenager to be honest with you. The foundation of communication skills is being honest, open, and trusting.

12. Show Confidence

Believe that your teenager is capable of making good decisions. Showing confidence in your teenager means you are empowering your teen to pursue their interests, you recognize their strengths, and encourage them to handle difficult challenges. This will help build their confidence and self-esteem. Modeling confidence in your teenager will help them feel more confident and communicate more confidently to you and others.

13. Be observant

Being observant with your teenager is knowing the little things about your teen. You are recognizing their talents, interests, moods, pet peeves, favorites, stressors, friends, and recent endeavors. Taking notice of the little things about your teenager really sends the message that you want to know every faucet about them and you like them. Being observant teaches your teen to be observant of others and to communicate the small details in others.

14. Family meals

Family meals provide a regular time for everyone to sit down together and catch up on each other's lives. When everyone is sitting around the table, there are natural opportunities for conversation to flow. Family members can share stories about their day, discuss current events, or talk about their plans for the future. Family meals can be a powerful way to increase communication and build stronger relationships within the family.

15. Your body language

Body language is an essential aspect of communication that can greatly enhance communication skills. By paying attention to your own body language and being aware of the body language of others, you can improve your ability to communicate effectively.

16. Be aware of your energy and presence

We are naturally attracted to people who are happy, positive, energetic, or have a calm presence and energy about them. Your presence and energy can have a significant impact on the way you come across and how your teen perceives you. Creating a confident and calm presence and energy will engage the listener and the listener will be more inclined to trust and stay in the conversation.

17. How would I react if “this” was said to me?

Thinking through and reflecting on what you want to say and how you want to say it is an important piece to great communication. One of the questions I ask my parent coaching clients is, “How would you react if what you said to your teenager was said back to you? Would it feel attacking, defensive, criticizing, or a put down?” Taking a moment to think about how you would feel and respond to your own words is a powerful communication tool to teach your teen.

18. Respond calmly

Teenagers have trouble with controlling their anger and managing their anxiety especially during conflicts and confrontation. Showing your teenager that you can respond calmly is not a sign of weakness or you are less authoritative but a sign of confidence in your ability to cope with your feelings. A great communication skill to teach teenager is to help them respond calmly when aggravated, so others will focus on their words not their reaction.

19. Help your teenager be assertive

As a teen therapist, one of the most important skills I teach teenagers is how to be assertive and advocate for themselves. Being assertive looks like asking for your needs and wants, standing up for yourself, and seeking clarification and help.

20. Let them say no

This might be an unpopular opinion but hear me out! Allowing your teenager to have choices and the ability to say no will give your teenager the power, courage, and confidence to say no when they are an adult. I see too many young adults who struggle with people pleasing, setting boundaries, feeling powerless, and taken advantage of in the workplace because they have no skills on how to say no. Giving your teenager the option to say no will empower them that they can say no in the future.

When is it more than just teenage communication skills?

Teenager is yelling at mother while she is baking and mother doesn't know how to help daughter.

After working with your teenager and modeling healthy and effective communication, sometimes it is more than just improving communication skills for your teen. Your teenager might appear they have no control over their reactions and verbal responses. You are taking notice that their unhealthy and ineffective communication skills are affecting their relationships, mental health, schooling, and home life.

In addition, you feel exhausted with trying to help your teenager and feel like every strategy isn’t working. You have acknowledged that these communication issues have been going on for some time with little to no progress. You have probably come to a point where professional help is a great option for yourself as the parent and for your teenager.

4 Things to Remember When Teaching Your Teenager Communication Skills

Teaching your teenager healthy and effective communication skills so they can have thriving relationships and feel confident in all areas of their life isn’t an easy task.

Some things to remember when teaching your teenager communication skills:

1.They are LEARNING which means they will make mistakes.

They aren’t going to get it perfect and they aren’t supposed to. Having effective and healthy communication skills takes practice and patience. The more you can model healthy communication skills the more your teenager has the opportunities to engage in more connecting interactions with you.

2. Your teen will be testing out negative communication skills on YOU!

Yes, you are the punching bag when it comes to your teenager practicing their communication skills on you. They have to test their skills on someone they feel comfortable and safe with. They are practicing what works and what doesn’t work on someone who won’t leave them nor take away their love for them and that is YOU, the parent! .

3. The learning phase can be really hard and hurtful.

It’s important to utilize those moments to teach your teenager about how certain communication skills can affect someone’s ability to be around them and to have meaningful relationships with others.

4. During this learning phase, SELF-CARE for parents is vital.

You have to have your own interests, passions, and social circle outside of being a parent. Parenting your teenager can feel all encompassing and all consuming. Make sure you have a village of other parents who are supportive and you can lean on during tough and challenging times.

As you can see, healthy and effective communication skills are essential for teenagers to learn because they are crucial in building strong and healthy relationships, developing social skills, and expressing oneself in a positive manner.

By mastering effective communication skills, teenagers can avoid misunderstandings, resolve conflicts, and build trust with their parents and friends.

Parents can be excellent role models for healthy communication skills by modeling the behavior they want their teens to emulate. By encouraging and modeling healthy communication skills, parents can help their teenagers become confident and effective communicators, which will serve them well throughout their lives.

Needing extra support for you or your teenager

teen therapist and parent coach Ashley Hudson

At Ashley Hudson Therapy, I help teens develop effective communication skills so they can build self-esteem and feel comfortable in expressing themselves with friends and family. If you are in the state of California, schedule a free consultation today.

In addition, I am a parent coach for parents of teenagers. At Illuminate Your Connection, I offer parent coaching through an online parenting course. I help parents gain confidence and the skills to connect with their teenager and nurture a lifelong relationship with them. Check it out The Connected Parent here!

If If you are looking for a sneak peek of the parenting program, check out The Connection Mini Course for $27. You get 4 lessons on how to ignite connection fast with your teenager in less than 1 hour. Get Access Today for Just $27!

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